Chicago Tribune

Are we on 'The Road to Unfreedom'? Timothy Snyder considers this political moment through history's lens

Five years ago, Timothy Snyder began work on "The Road to Unfreedom," a book examining a modern political transformation: What happens when factual truth is upended? When wealth is concentrated? When battlefronts are online as well as on the ground? The Yale history professor had drafted the book - a book about Russia and Ukraine - by November 2016, but then Donald Trump was elected president.

Instead of submitting the book he'd planned, Snyder, perhaps best known up to that point for his critically acclaimed histories "Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin" and "Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning," published a slim, best-selling volume called "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century." He continued work on "The Road to Unfreedom," expanding it to consider how ideas germinated in Russia in the early 2010s had spread through Ukraine and Europe to the United States.

"The Road to Unfreedom" offers a brief, potent and carefully documented history of Vladimir Putin's consolidation of power in Russia, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Snyder centers on the notion that the world may be lurching from a "politics of inevitability" - the notion, as Snyder writes, that a better future is ahead, "the laws of progress are known, that there are no alternatives, and therefore nothing to be done" - and a "politics of eternity," or the idea that time is "a circle that endlessly returns to the same threats

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